NPR has stopped distributing a cultural program due to a producer’s ties to the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. According to NPR, Lisa Simeone, who produces the “World of Opera” for NPR member station WDAV in Davidson, North Carolina, violated NPR ethics rules by acting as a spokeswoman for a group involved in the protests. From the Baltimore Sun:
NPR says it will no longer distribute “World of Opera” as a result of Baltimore
show host Lisa Simeone’s activities with an Occupy D.C. protest
WDAV, the North Carolina classical music station that produces the
show, said it will keep Simeone as host and try to distribute the show on its
own. About 60 NPR member station had been carrying the show. WDAV is licensed to
Davidson College, a school of about 1,800 students, according to station
spokeswoman Lisa Gray.
“Our view is it’s a potential conflict of interest
for any journalist or any individual who plays a public role on behalf of NPR to
take an active part in a political movement or advocacy campaign,” NPR
spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm told The Associated Press. “Doing so has the
potential to compromise our reputation as an organization that strives to be
impartial and unbiased.”
On Wednesday, Simeone was fired as host from the
public-radio documentary show “Soundprint.” The reason given by the Laurel-based
production company, according to Simeone, is that she had violated NPR’s Ethics
Code. Simeone told the Sun that she does not believe she has, because she is not
functioning as an NPR journalist.
As NPR struggles to overcome controversies involving Juan Williams and derogatory remarks about the Tea Party movement, it is clearly sensitive to charges of bias. However, local affiliate WDAV does not share NPR’s views on Simeone’s potential ethics violations.
“As host of World of Opera, Lisa Simeone is an independent contractor of WDAV Classical Public Radio. Ms. Simeone’s activities outside of this job are not in violation of any of WDAV’s employee codes and have had no effect on her job performance at WDAV. Ms. Simeone remains the host of World of Opera,” said Lisa V. Gray, Director of Marketing at WDAV.
While Simeone’s firing raises questions over journalistic ethics, one thing is certain: NPR will always be a political football as long as it continues to receive federal (and state) funding. Former NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, who was let go after the Williams controversy, seemed to recognize this in a tweet endorsing her successor at NPR.
“New @npr CEO Gary Knell is an experienced leader, a good man and a friend. Best shot to liberate pubradio from untenable reliance on fed $$” tweeted Schiller.